On Location: The making of “Beholder” (Part 2)

Elaine Hendrix is the most amazing actor full of range. There is so little I can say about why she is perfect for this part without giving away the plot, so I won’t. But I have to say that I really underestimated all that Elaine can do. I have known of her comic genius in so many of her movies, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, and Superstar and The Parent Trap,  but she is so compelling in her dramatic work and she is so dedicated and supportive. You would expect that someone with Elaine’s credits would arrive with some sort of entourage and ego-expanding agenda. but Elaine arrived gracious, kind, prepared and ready to work. No talk of dressing rooms or green M&Ms for this star – she was as gracious off camera as she is riveting on camera.    

Our only regret is that we were  not rolling during rehearsal when Jessica Paré said, “I think we should kiss here” to Elaine Hendrix.  And Elaine said “Okay.”  And then Jessica said, “With tongue, OK?”  And then Elaine said, “Is there any other way?”  Because that would have been behind the scenes footage to download. But, alas, it will only live on in this blog and in the minds of our crew that witnessed it live. Sexy.

Then there were the men. Could I be a bigger fan of Michael McMillian?  We met on the set of True Blood, where I was already busy following his every move. So when he agreed to come support the little indie film that could, I became an even bigger fan. He plays, the genetically perfect doctor that gives Jessica Paré’s character the news that her fetus is carrying the marker for the gay gene, and he does it with such perfect aplomb that it carried the sinister connotations even further. Michael’s light hand helped elevate the material, and we love him for doing that in everything in which he appears. The only thing is that, for some reason, I had assumed Michael was gay. And I talked to him as though he were gay the entire shoot and he never felt the need to correct me or to declare that he was actually straight, which happens a lot on gay movies. So Michael – you have a fan forever.

Then there’s Rupak Ginn. This part was really written with Rupak in mind. If you haven’t checked out his work, then do! Rupak is a genuinely kind and intelligent person.  He also happens to be insanely good looking and very talented.  That’s not a bad combination.  And I’ve been wanting to work with him for years – so it was a no-brainer to ask him to bring the Bobby Jindal character to life and to make him likeable.

And then I have to mention the incredibly talented and very busy actors that lent their talent to us:  Bonnie Kathleen Ryan and Michael Mosley as the genetically perfect couple that pushes every insecure button you could possibly have, David Cade (from Big Time Rush), Tim Moran and Jay Bingham as the police officers that none of us ever want a run in with, and Sarah Allan as the pregnant woman who gives Jessica a glimpse into her future.

When we had to populate the "gay friendly" world, I called upon the gays to come help us. Talented folks including Bruce Daniels, Bridget McManus and Dara Nai (to name a few) answered the call.

Tim Moran is actually the brother of my first girlfriend. Okay wait, my first girlfriend that I had as an adult and did not meet through friends. I was 18 and there was some overlap, so you know we have to make some very specific titles here. But that’s another blog and another lifetime. Tim is someone I had the pleasure of watching perform when I was in college and he was so phenomenal that I’ve been waiting for a moment to work with him. This is the first film I ever shot in Los Angeles and so Tim, being a local, was the first person I called.

Okay so now back to the shoot. Like I said, it was the first time I shot a movie in LA. Why the hell does LA make it nearly impossible to shoot a low budget movie here?  Holy s–t, I’ve never seen such obstacles. Seriously, it’s way easier to shoot a no budget movie in the most expensive city (NYC) than it is to shoot here with a little bit of money. We wanted to shoot on the beach, and that meant so much money for permits, safety officers, fire officers, monitors, parking. The list goes on and on.  I asked if we could steal it – guerilla style – but apparently the authorities are watching for that kind of thing in LA. So we had to head up to the haven for indie film shooting, Ventura. That’s right, I said "haven."  Why? Because to shoot in Ventura all day, on the beach in three different areas and to use the pier, which they offered to shut down for us if we wanted, it was… get ready … 400 bucks! Including parking. Are you kidding me?

The only drawback was that their beaches are prettier, and we couldn’t find the sewer drains that I think are so awesomely weird about LA beaches up in gorgeous Ventura. But Rick Surad (our location manager and general problem solver) found a local company willing to give us some pipe and we threw it on the beach and made our own weird sewer pipe. And I’m sure that Jessica is happier that she didn’t have to climb through a real sewer pipe in the end. But it turns out that sewer pipes, freezing winds, lack of dressing rooms and holding areas didn’t throw her. The only thing that throws Jessica Paré – other than wheat and maybe dairy – turns out to be spiders (which also scare the crap out of me). 

So when I was directing her in a crucial scene and noticed that there was the biggest spider web I’ve ever seen – with a Harry Potter-sized spider in the center of it right above us, it’s a miracle that I was able to keep my mouth shut about it. The things you will do for your movie. Note: She did notice that spider dangling above us after the second take. Luckily, we could only manage about thee takes per scene before we had to move on. I suck because when she pointed it out, I pretended that I was just seeing it for myself and we ran out of there. I’m sorry, Jessica. I will never lie to you again.  Unless it’s for a really good take. And then, maybe …

Here’s a little taste of our production and what it was like behind the scenes of Beholder:

Next week: How to finish your movie now that it’s actually shot, festival fun and festival drama. And you get to tell me if you think we pulled it off or not because we premiere on March 16 (you can come back and watch the film in its entirety here at AfterEllen.com)! If you haven’t already gone to the Facebook page for Beholder – please do so and find out when we’re coming to a town near you.

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